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Mancini v. Insurance Corp. of New york

June 18, 2009

CAROL MANCINI, AS ASSIGNEE OF SAN MARINO PLASTERING, INC.; AND SAN MARINO PLASTERING, INC., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE INSURANCE CORPORATION OF NEW YORK; AND DOES 1 THROUGH 300, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Nita L. Stormes U.S. Magistrate Judge United States District Court

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION TO COMPEL RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES AND GRANTING MOTION TO COMPEL PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS [Docket Nos. 37, 41]

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Carol Mancini ("Mancini"), along with other homeowners similarly situated, filed suit in the San Diego Superior Court against the developer and general contractor responsible for the construction of their homes. Mancini v. Brookfield Waterford, Inc., GIC836666 ("underlying action"). Plaintiff San Marino Plastering ("SMP", here collectively "Plaintiffs") was involved as a stucco and drywall contractor. The developer and general contractor sued SMP in a cross-complaint in the underlying action. SMP tendered the action to its insurer, Defendant The Insurance Corporation of New York ("INSCORP"), but INSCORP denied coverage and refused to accept defense of the underlying action. SMP settled the case with Mancini and other plaintiff-homeowners. As part of the settlement, SMP assigned to Mancini all its rights, claims and causes of action against INSCORP, except for emotional distress and punitive damages. As a result of the assignment, Mancini, along with SMP, filed the above-captioned case, alleging breach of the insurance contract and failure to indemnify.

On May 4, 2009, INSCORP filed a Motion to Compel Further Responses to Requests for Production of Documents. [Docket No. 37.] On May 6, 2009, INSCORP filed a Motion to Compel Further Responses to Interrogatories. [Docket No. 41.] For the following reasons, the Motion to Compel Further Responses to Interrogatories is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART and the Motion to Compel Further Responses to Production of Documents is GRANTED.

DISCUSSION

Most of this dispute boils down to a single question: May Plaintiffs fulfill all of their discovery obligations by reference to the universe of documents from the underlying litigation? The answer is: Plaintiffs cannot fulfill their obligation to produce documents by making the entire underlying litigation file accessible without referencing which specific documents are responsive to which specific requests.

A. Legal Standards

Rule 26 provides the scope of discovery:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . . For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Rule 26 also provides the standards for limiting discovery:

[T]he court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery otherwise allowed by these rules or by local rule if it determines that . . . the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C). "Relevance for purposes of discovery is defined very broadly." Garneau v. City of Seattle, 147 F.3d 802, 812 (9th Cir. 1998). "The party seeking to compel discovery has the burden of establishing that its request satisfies the relevancy requirements of Rule 26(b)(1). Thereafter, the party opposing discovery has the burden of showing that the discovery should be prohibited, and the burden of clarifying, explaining or supporting its objections." Bryant v. Ochoa, 2009 WL 1390794 at * 1 (S.D. Cal. May 14, 2009). Those opposing discovery are "required to carry a heavy burden of showing" why discovery should be denied. Blankenship v. Hearst Corp., 519 F. 2d 418, 429 (9th Cir. 1975); WebSideStory, Inc. v. NetRatings, Inc., 2007 WL 1120567, *1 (S.D. Cal. Apr. 06, 2007).*fn1

B. Motion to Compel Responses to Interrogatories

On February 18, 2009, INSCORP served Interrogatories to Mancini and SMP. Mancini and SMP responded to the Interrogatories on March 23, 2009. (Lozano Decl. Exs. D, E.) The parties met and conferred in an attempt to resolve their disputes, but were unsuccessful.

1. Improper Use of Rule 33(d)

INSCORP seeks to compel responses from Mancini to Interrogatory Numbers 1, 2, 3, 12-16 and 19 and to compel responses from SMP to Interrogatory Numbers 2, 3, 12, and 22 on the basis that Plaintiffs have improperly used Rule 33(d) to respond to these interrogatories.

Mancini purported to respond to Interrogatory Number 1, 2, 3, 12-16 and 19 by incorporating a ten page "preamble" that appears to be a legal brief on Mancini's legal and factual arguments in the case. This is not an appropriate method of responding to an interrogatory and the Court strikes the incorporation of the preamble. SMP also attempts to respond to interrogatories with a long preamble, which is stricken. Mancini then makes a brief response and adds that all facts can be found within the entire universe of documents involved in the underlying ...


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